So I knew this day would come. I think to a certain extent everyone saw it coming. I’m sure all of my friends in college could predict this end; it was pretty much habitual behavior. Especially my senior year when I lived so close to seven eleven and it was easy to stop by and pick up something for the night. Even in high school I showed signs of it. Not as often and not in the same extent as college, but I still had my phases of indulgences. I know my parents probably thought that it would happen. Whether it was genetic or environmental or some other cause that I don’t know. Now the addiction has become real. I don’t know if it is my diet here in Madagascar, my work schedule, or some other cause, but I crave it at almost every meal, sometimes before. I started out just having a little after dinner, and then that slowly turned into some at lunch and maybe some during breakfast. I just can’t help it, I like sugar. And so for now, sugar is where my latest food escapades have lead me… I have attempted a few different ‘sugary’ foods, among them being, cookies, frostings and cornbread. I am happy to announce that I could fry sugar cookies, but frying peanut butter cookies was not as easy or successful, and reluctantly (ok, not reluctantly at all) I ate at least half the batch of peanut butter cookie dough because it was impossible to cook. However, I was able to heat it up like a scramble and then place it in a bowl and cover it and it did set a little. Regardless, it was really sweet and really good. But, like any addict, all this work for a fix just wasn’t good enough. I decided to make some really simple chocolate frosting for pancakes, and that was good too. But still, not enough. That’s where I am now. I suppose this is what people call rock bottom, but it feels so good. Sometimes, I just have a spoonful of straight sugar after a meal and call it quits (or maybe 2 spoonfuls). All that being said, i eat a lot of ‘real’ food as well, and have recently perfected the art of making a tortilla so it is just the right consistency, and can fold properly. and i still eat rice and occasionally make the rice pancakes. Also, I’ve started eating this really good mixture of rice, peanuts and bananas all mixed together; it’s not bad. As for the food that I really miss at the moment- an apple. Who would have thought?

–The shift key has decided to quit on me–.

We are in the ‘dry’ season here, but it has rained almost every day in June so far. so the mud has been out of control and my overall sanitation, which was minimal at best before, has plummeted quite a bit. But of course, this comes from the anal retentive cleaning Nazi that I am, so I still wash dishes after every meal and sweep my house every day and bathe at least 3 times a week as a minimum. Just recently I went to the river and collected sand to put in front of my house so my shoes wouldn’t be as muddy. It was quite the experience going to the river, having a woman tell me that the best dirt was in the river, taking my bucket about 1m deep into the river and then scooping sand out. That’s when things got real interesting and I had one of the moments where i wish I could escape my body and just see how awkward this really appeared. The woman who told me about the dirt yelled at some kids to help and they all took off their clothes jumped in and started scooping handfuls of dirt into my bucket. So here’s the mental picture: me, with my shirt off (farmer tan of course and glowing white in the afternoon sun) holding a bucket in about 1m deep water, while about 5 Malagasy boys surround me (naked) diving down to get dirt. It’s moments like that that I wish that a TV crew would follow me around and i could have some idea how absurd i look sometimes…
For work, I am in the middle of building cook stoves and a hot boxes. Both should be good for people to use and can minimize the amount of trees that they chop down. I’m not the best with arts and crafts type things, but we’ll see how they work. I started one cook stove with just a dirt mix, but it isn’t dry enough yet and I started another one with a proper mixture of clay, ash and rice hulls. For the hotboxes i made one that kind of worked, but i think it was too big, so i bought another basket and I’m hoping the smaller scale will work a little better. i can just imagine me taking my hot box around to everyone in the community and trying to pitch it like a salesman who is selling vacuum cleaners door to door. I just want it to work, because every time i tell people about the hot boxes they look at me like i’m crazy. Even before the success of the large one, my counterpart looked at me with eyes that said, “Who did peace corps send me? We need to return this fool as fast as possible!” But alas, it does work and now i just need to communicate and improve upon it. My garden has been infiltrated. The realization was devastating to say the least. i definitely need to revamp my fence, because chickens and rabbits have been able to get in and they are not very nice. However, what they weren’t able to eat or destroy has been growing, so that is the silver lining in the disaster. i helped plant rice last week and it was a good experience for me. It is good to know the traditional way of farming and planting rice, so when i have an SRI plot in December I will know the differences and similarities for farming in the area. i also made another trek into antanetiambo nature reserve and walked around and surveyed where paths should be placed and how those paths that are there can be improved. For example, one path is straight up a hill and with all of the rain it is near impossible to walk up. i was also able to see lemurs for the first time in the reserve. kind of cool to think that lemurs can live in the wild just about 2 km from where i am living. The English club has still been meeting as well. Some of the kids are more interested than others, but overall I think it is good and it is an opportunity for me to practice environmental education. The biggest thing I want to accomplish is to get these kids to realize that trying new things is good and that if they have an open mind they can create, build and produce more and better things than they thought possible. Ideal, but let’s just say it hasn’t exactly started with a running start…
One big future project that I hope to accomplish is the establishment of a rice cooperative for the community. There are still a lot of economical issues that I need to figure out and other logistical issues, but i hope to have a storage building built or figured out by December so i can start slowly after the next rice harvest getting the project in motion.
I am also becoming more integrated into the community and I have been talking more with people and much more people have been saying hello and know that I am not a foreigner. i have a nice women that I buy mofogasy – a bread/rice cake food- and soy milk from at least once a week and then the local epicerie knows me as well. Also, when I go to andapa i find that my trips are getting longer and longer because i am seeing more people and therefore talking with more people. The other day i visited a guy and his family in andapa and we had a long conversation that was mixed with English and Malagasy and for the most part I understood what was going on.
I received a letter from my dad (they handed it to me when i sent a letter this past Monday) so it only took two and half weeks for a letter to reach me from the United States. I don’t know if people have received my letters, but I’m sure it will take longer for that little piece of paper to leave this country than it is for the paper to enter. I saw a USPS box burning next door and I can only hope that it wasn’t something for me that did not make it. Who knows, I’m probably just paranoid.
the mice have been minimal as of late. i hang my food in baskets, put my rice in a container and i bought a mouse trap. the very first mouse i caught was quite the site, because it didn’t even have the peanut in its mouth when it met it’s doom. i felt somewhat bad for the creature not being able to have its last supper before its eventual end. I’ve caught two so far, but i still hear them around in the area and i’m sure more will venture in to the house…all in due time. I see little ones running around outside so it is just a matter of time until greed brings them into the metal trap of doom. i must say, i’m sleeping better knowing they are not running around in my food, or my head, and waking me up in the middle of the night.
for leisure i have continued with war and peace. I don’t know if my life is lacking drama at the moment, but I’ve finished the battle at borodino and I was not particularly interested in it. Some of the information was interesting and engaging, but for the most part i felt like i was reading a history book. So the end of the book has slowed down quite a bit for me, however, *spoiler* I think Prince Andrey has finally died for real, but we’ll see if he comes back. If i get too bored i use my bookmark to kill the flies in my house and that can kill some time, not to mention my reputation if anyone happens to peek in my window. I’ve accumulated a lot of trash over the past two month. Mostly plastic bags for all of the food that i buy. so, on one of the many rainy days that I didn’t have a program (if i am busy it is called a ‘program’ ) i built these animals out of my trash. They were pretty simple, but kind of fun and i gave them to my counterpart’s son the other day. I made a mouse, how could i not, and a lizard/crocodile/dinosaur like creature. I’m just happy to have less trash in the house. I’ve started making a ball, but I’ll need much more bags. I’ve also changed my diet and exercise lately. This will make all of my 12 year old female readers jealous, but i have started growing breasts here in Madagascar. ok, not really, but I’ve become a little soft in the chestal region. i don’t have to worry about my arms or legs at all because they are always working, but for some reason my chest just wasn’t getting the exercise that my narcissistic/insecure body desired. So, here i am, skinny as can be everywhere but the chest, so we’ll see if i can cure it. Pushups are fine for now. i also started eating slower and being conscious of slowing down my eating. i think both of these things have improved my overall ‘stomach’ health. I’ve been listening to my ipod a little more lately as well and every time i listen to the songs, i think about how much music will have changed back home in the two years and sometimes miss the idea of being able to keep up with modern music. However, i put my ipod on shuffle the other day and i came across two very big surprises. 1: shuffle eats the battery life terribly quick. 2: I have a lot of songs that i have never heard and don’t know how they came to be on my ipod. One such example is Hilary Duff’s Gypsy Woman. Go to YouTube and listen to it and you will understand my surprise when that pretty little number decided to bless my ears and drain my battery. As for the song that i woke up with in my head today: Where does the good go, by Tegan and Sara (I’m sure these two songs are really going to make a few people wonder what kind of stuff is on my ipod).
not so much leisure, but life in general for me has become much more structured because i have started writing everything down that i want to do or plan to do for the week and make a little calendar. it makes me feel better about my work from a psychological point of view and i think it is good, at least for me, to have sort of schedule to try and produce something. Another good reason for me to have a schedule is because more people are coming to visit and i would feel awful if i told them to come by my house and i wasn’t there. The past week was particularly social for some reason and it was good to have everything squared away.
Independence Day is this weekend in Madagascar. I didn’t go to the party in andapa because my counterparts didn’t and they told me it might be a lot of drunk people and not much of anything else. Instead, I offered to go to the rice field with one counterpart and we planted more rice and walked around some of the protected land in the area. We had a great lunch that consisted of rice, chicken, beans, and then two things that i think are only here and i only know the Malagasy names: sosy, and ananas mafana. That night there were lots of drunk people out and about and i think the full or near full moon encouraged the wandering. The party has kept going, maybe because this year is the 50th anniversary, so it will be interesting to see how long it lasts.
For hardships at the moment it is just a feeling of wanting some kind of real accomplishment with work. i think because of the location of my house and the distance from the communities in the area it is hard for me to really focus my energy on one place or project, or let alone, know who i am suppose to work with. The money issue is becoming a problem as well as I know more people and know what they have and don’t have. I really need to get across that I am not here to give money and that giving money really doesn’t do them any good because I won’t be here forever to give money. Alas, i have not mastered this conversation in Malagasy yet, so it will have to wait. Final hardship is this stupid computer. The shift key isn’t working, Microsoft office expired, the windows 7 starter addition won’t let me update the background and the battery life is weak. to go along with that, this blog was suppose to be sent 3 days ago but the internet connection on the one computer at the one internet cafe was not working. But, it really doesn’t matter, I suppose.
And so I have decided to leave you with another memorable moment for me. One day last week, everything seemed to be going wrong. It was just a bad day. From the weather, to cooking, to work, all was bad. So I’m already in a bad mood and I go to my kabone (bathroom) to do my business. Upon finishing (and i can recall this vividly as it appeared to happen in slow motion) i fumble my almost full role of bright pink toilet paper as it bounces off of my finger tips and falls like an anvil into the deep dark abyss known as my kabone. Plunging into the darkness my face drops as if by some miracle the role was going to be hovering high above the human waste letting me grab it with my hand. However, that was not the case. My mind flashes with all of the trips and wipes that roll of toilet paper could have made and how its life was cut short. To make matters worse, it was my last role. Thankfully, this all happened after I had finished the procedure of wiping myself, so there was not a terrible sense of urgency…until the morning. That is when i had to put my body into full Zen practice and tell my body to stop, take the morning off and give me some time to go to Andapa and re-stock. Thankfully, there is nothing too embarrassing that happened after that (and even if there were, I wouldn’t write it in this blog).

* almost 4 months in Madagascar